HEREFORD — Potato producers who handle seed tubers properly will reap higher yields of high-quality, marketable tubers, said a Colorado State University potato scientist speaking to producers at the recent West Texas Vegetable Conference here.
“Proper seed handling is the single most important factor in producing high yields and high quality tubers,” said Dr. Asunta (Suzie) Thompson-Jones. “When we talk about handling, we are talking about careful management from seed production to storage and on through planting.
“The best way to see how seed tubers are handled is to visit your supplier’s production fields. Inspect the tubers as they come from the field and as they are shipped out. When you examine storage facilities, remember that the best storage environment includes a constant temperature somewhere between 38 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit and low concentrations of carbon dioxide and ethylene — both of these compounds promote sprouting.”
Thompson-Jones also reminded growers to plant seed tubers when soil temperatures are 50 degrees or warmer, with an appropriate starter fertilizer.
“Planting after the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees aids plant emergence and helps the plants develop strong roots,” she said. “Formulations for starter fertilizer vary widely from grower to grower, but it certainly won’t hurt to apply one-third to one-half of the crop’s nitrogen requirement at planting.
“Another thing to consider when you are thinking about seed tubers is their age. You can time a crop s maturity to fall well within your ideal harvest window simply by using seed tubers of the right age.”
Thompson-Jones’ field work with potato seed tubers in Colorado’s San Luis Valley is part of a joint research effort conducted by scientists at Colorado State, Texas A&M and California State universities.
Her research examines the effect of potato cultivation and storage techniques on seed tuber quality, and helps generate ‘management profiles’ (guidelines)for specific potato cultivars.
“Right now, we are working on profiles for two new potato cultivars. We hope to generate profiles on another five cultivars in the near future,” Thompson-Jones said. “We also are looking at how pre-cutting (scoring seed tubers before planting) affects plant maturity, harvest timing and stored tuber integrity.”
She offered West Texas producers these tips on proper seed tuber handling:
* Get to know your seed tuber supplier and how their operation runs.
* Avoid bruising seed tubers during handling bruising increases tuber susceptibility to pathogens (disease, fungus) and promotes premature aging.
* Train employees to handle seed tubers gently and carefully.
* Remember that potato cultivars react differently to handling techniques some are more susceptible to bruising, while others are more forgiving.
Thompson-Jones was one of 11 featured speakers at the 1999 West Texas Vegetable Conference here, which attracted more than 150 growers and vegetable industry representatives from Texas and adjoining states.